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The Old Woman And Her Two Servants

(Recueil 1, Livre 5, Fable 6)

 

 

A beldam kept two spinning maids,

Who plied so handily their trades,

Those spinning sisters down below

Were bunglers when compared with these.

No care did this old woman know

But giving tasks as she might please.

No sooner did the god of day

His glorious locks enkindle,

Than both the wheels began to play,

And from each whirling spindle

Forth danced the thread right merrily,

And back was coiled unceasingly.

Soon as the dawn, I say, its tresses showed,

A graceless cock most punctual crowed.

The beldam roused, more graceless yet,

In greasy petticoat bedight,

Struck up her farthing light,

And then forthwith the bed beset,

Where deeply, blessedly did snore

Those two maid-servants tired and poor.

One oped an eye, an arm one stretched,

And both their breath most sadly fetched,

This threat concealing in the sigh

"That cursed cock shall surely die!"

And so he did: they cut his throat,

And put to sleep his rousing note.

And yet this murder mended not

The cruel hardship of their lot;

For now the twain were scarce in bed

Before they heard the summons dread.

The beldam, full of apprehension

Lest oversleep should cause detention,

Ran like a goblin through her mansion.

Thus often, when one thinks

To clear himself from ill,

His effort only sinks

Him in the deeper still.

The beldam, acting for the cock,

Was Scylla for Charybdis" rock.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 5, Fable 6

 

 

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